Guide to Drinking 2017

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GUIDE TO

DRINKING brandy cocktails from frazer’s, for more on this highclass spirit turn to p. 26

ST. LOUIS’ INDEPENDENT CULINARY AUTHORITY Guide to Drinking 2017

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Bud Light Lime is my go-to for easy-tofind, perfect-in-a-bucket beer that won’t leave you slobbering at the table while watching your favorite team. It might not be beer nerd-approved, but there is something about that sweet, zesty lime character paired with Budweiser’s adjunct lager graininess that gets me. Now American craft is jumping on the bandwagon, too, with these easy-drinking lime beers.

DOGFISH HEAD SEA QUENCH ALE Invigorating and fresh, this tart wheat beer is stacked with zesty lime notes on both nose and palate. Salt complements a fantastic grain bill that intensifies the beer’s texture and body. A nice rounded acidity completes this margarita-like beer, leaving you most certainly asking for una otra. Six-pack: $12. Craft Beer Cellar, 8113 Maryland Ave., Clayton, 314.222.2444, cbcclayton.com

NEW BELGIUM BREWING CITRADELIC E XOT I C L I M E This mellow beer presents with just a hint of fresh lime that subtly hits your nose. A sweet grain character on the tip of your tongue and a balanced bitterness complement the light citrus character that

moves from the front palate to the back, disappearing with one quick swallow. Six-pack: $8. Lukas Wine & Spirits, 15678 Manchester Road, Ellisville, 636.227.4543, lukasliquorstl.com

U I N TA B R E W I N G LIME PILSNER Clean and effervescent, this lime lager is reminiscent of those suckers you’d get at the drive-thru bank teller as a kid – you know, the ones with the looped stick. A big and bright limey nose gives way to a lightly sweet, yet balanced malt character. Is this just a glass of limeade? Either way, it’s delicious. Six-pack: $9. Friar Tuck, 4635 State Hwy. K, O’Fallon, Missouri, 636.300.4300, friartuckonline.com

TA L L G R A S S B R E W I N G CO. KEY LIME PIE Dessert-like and vivacious, this beer is like a heaping plate of Key lime pie complete with aromas of crumbly crust, fresh lime zest and just a hint of vanilla. The intense, sweet-tart flavors bounce around the palate. Six-pack: $12. Beer Sauce Shop, 318 Mid Rivers Mall Drive, St. Peters, 636.328.7972, beersauceshop.com

OLD BAKERY BEER CO. CERVEZA CON LIMA Vibrant and refreshing, this bebida is super juicy with notes of ripe citrus upheld in the glass by a medium-bodied beer with a subtle but lacey head. Tart lime lingers across the palate as cereal permeates the nose. Four-pack: $10. Larder & Cupboard, 7310 Manchester Road, Maplewood, 314.300.8995, larderandcupboard.com

DRINK IN THE LIMELIGHT

PHOTO BY IZAIAH JOHNSON

BY KATIE HERRERA

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T R E N D W A T C H guide to drinking edition BY CATHERINE KLENE, MEERA NAGARAJAN AND MATT SORRELL

powder powered

Instead of using traditional hop pellets, some brewers are sprinkling their beer with a little magic dust. 4 Hands Brewing Co. brewery manager Martin Toft used hop powder – aka cryogenically processed hops – in Loose Particles, a juicy Northeast-style IPA with Simcoe and Mosaic. Toft said he can use significantly less product and get more aroma and flavor from the hops, and he’s already planning to hit more recipes with the powder next year. 2nd Shift Brewing also experimented with Cryo Hops in its Equanot Experimental IPA, a light, clean brew with equanot hops.

SHAKE IT OFF

Love ’em or hate ’em, milkshake IPAs made a splash this summer. These creamy, dreamsicle-like IPAs are brewed with fruit and lactose sugars commonly used in milk stouts that gives their signature thick, rich mouth feel. Pennsylvania’s Tired Hands and Sweden’s Omnipollo Brewing kicked off the trend in 2015 with the titular Milkshake IPA (with several variations to follow), and St. Louis brewers are also experimenting with the style. Jeff Hardesty at Narrow Gauge Brewing Co. released To the Yard (Peach), a rich, hazy IPA brewed with lactose sugar and aged on vanilla beans and peaches. Forthcoming Rockwell Beer Co. tried out the technique with a few versions of Meringue, a beer brewed with lactose, lemon and vanilla, including Coconut Meringue, Raspberry Meringue and Orange Meringue. A handful of milkshake IPAs were spotted at 2nd Shift Brewing’s annual Criderfest, including Nashville’s Southern Grist with its Guava Upside Down Cake (a double IPA brewed with guava, vanilla beans and lactose) and Windmill Brewing out of Indiana, which brought its Memes & Dreams, a lactose-fermented IPA with mangoes and vanilla.

to-drink list

The wine list has always had top billing at fine dining eateries, but many area restaurants are giving craft brews a place in the spotlight. Places like Vicia, Olive & Oak and Sardella boast a healthy mix of local, regional and international options. Retreat Gastropub describes its beer list like its wines, categorizing brews with helpful key characteristics. The Libertine pays homage to beer’s heritage with large-format German bottles, and Cleveland-Heath appeases both the workaday drinker and the craft fan with a list including Stag and offerings only available in Illinois like Surly Brewing Co. Some fine dining establishments even partner with local breweries to create custom beers for the restaurant like Side Project Cup of Love previously at Sardella; look for Perennial Ollie Ollie Oxen Free at Olive & Oak, Perennial Brew for the Crew at Farmhaus and Perennial Single Barrel Stout at Juniper.

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hot new pinots

German pinot noir, or Spätburgunder, is all the rage right now. In fact, it can prove difficult to find a bottle despite being the third-largest producer of pinot noir in the world. Why? Let’s just say German pinot noirs of the past didn’t taste good – thin and on the acidic side – because the weather was just not right for this grape. But due to recent rising temperatures and longer, sunnier days (thanks, global warming), the fruit now ripens better, making the resulting wine resemble an expensive Burgundy at an affordable price. Think light-bodied, refined reds with notes of red fruit that are delicate with a very dry, long finish. Find it on the shelf at Parker’s Table (a Koehler-Ruprecht 2013 Spätburgunder for $20), at the Wine Merchant (a 1 liter Heger 2014 Pinot Noir for $20) or order it off the wine list at Eleven Eleven Mississippi or 33 Wine Shop & Bar.

can it

Canned wine sales are booming like never before as consumers shrug off the lowbrow stigma of popping a top to quaff their vino. In fact, Nielsen Company reported sales rose 125 percent from summer 2015 to summer 2016. The perks of canned wine are numerous. They’re eminently portable, perfect for the pool or float trips where glass is off-limits. No additional glassware – or a corkscrew – is required, and cans can be easier to recycle than bottles. Plus, more and more high-quality producers are now ensconcing their juice in aluminum, like Alloy Wine Works, which cans several of its wines, including Everyday Rose, (a Sauce office favorite), and Union Wine Co.’s Underwood line, which offers five canned varieties.

brain freeze

Frozen and blended drinks have experienced a resurgence of late, becoming a “thing” again at such highly regarded establishments as Diamond Reef in Brooklyn and Preux & Proper in Los Angeles. St. Louis has been getting in on the frosty action as well. Narwahl’s Crafted Urban Ice in Midtown has a dedicated menu of frozen delights that includes such concoctions as the Watermelon Frosé and the Rhubarb Paloma. The Preston has brought out the blender to create drinks like the absinthe watermelon colada, and Porano has had great success with its über-popular Negroni Slushie. Guide to Drinking 2017


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wine, naturally low-intervention wines are in high demand BY H E AT H E R H U G H E S

if

you loiter in bottle aisles as long as we do, you’ve probably noticed the term “natural wine” popping up more and more in the past few years. In the age of knowing what your beef ate for breakfast, it’s no surprise that people are interested in a less processed version of their favorite beverage. But if you’ve been wondering what that bougie couple you eavesdropped on last time you were at Parker’s Table meant by “natural,” you’re not alone.

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Guide to Drinking 2017


“There is actually no clear definition of natural wine,” said Rachel Shulman, Claverach Farm wine distribution manager. “Generally, natural wines are organic or biodynamic in the field. … [It’s] wine that’s made with minimal chemical inputs both in the field and in the cellar and minimal technological manipulation in the winery.” For Shulman, if you’re going to put wine in your body, then you should know what’s in your wine. “Wine is an agricultural product,” Shulman said. “Because it’s in a bottle and you’re getting it in its packaged form, I think people forget that – it just seems so isolated from the farm. But as such, it can be processed and manipulated almost the same way processed food is.” And that goes way beyond the infamous sulfites. Some natural winemakers still add a minimal amount of sulfites at bottling to stabilize their product for transport, which is why the term “low-intervention” may be more helpful than natural. But traditionally produced wines can be filled with all sorts of excessive additives for stability or improved flavor that legally need not be mentioned on the label. But if you’re looking for a handy natural certification seal, you’re out of luck. “Yeah, there’s no label,” Shulman said. “And honestly, most of the wines we work with that are organic or biodynamic don’t even have that label.” A lot of natural producers want to make the best wine they can with the best possible practices, but don’t have the time and money to pursue expensive certifications or the patience to avoid certain “non-organic” practices that aren’t harmful to their product or the environment. “So it becomes like going to the farmers market, where it’s like: know your farmer. Know your

Guide to Drinking 2017

producer. Read up on them,” said Shulman. Go to shops with a focused selection of natural wines, like Parker’s Table, The Vino Gallery in the Central West End or Cork & Rind in St. Charles, where you can ask for help from experts. Or, if nothing else, look for small artisanal producers more likely to keep things low-tech. Like Claverach, for instance. It isn’t certified organic, but it is farmed with sustainable biological methods. Best known for idyllic farm-to-table dinners in Eureka, it’s also one of the only natural wine producers in the state of Missouri. “It’s always been a labor of love – why we grow vines and grow them the way we do,” said Shulman. “It’s so different from any other Missouri vineyard, what we’re doing here.” Grapes at Claverach are handharvested, allowing the vines to be planted close together on the farm’s hills for lower production of better fruit, rather than in wide rows on flat land to accommodate machines. That also means rotten bunches of grapes are easier to find and discard at harvest instead of accidentally getting lumped in with the good stuff, lowering the wine’s quality and forcing winemakers to throw in sugar and other additives to make their product drinkable. Claverach owner Sam Hilmer has followed the natural winemaking mantra of “nothing added, nothing taken away,” making wine with mostly just grapes, labor and time since 2002. But Claverach bottles were harder to find before 2016, when the farm started a boutique distribution company spearheaded by Shulman. The farm produced only about 100 cases last year, but sales have increased dramatically. “We aren’t even close to meeting demand. … Our rosé sold out in two weeks, and the red sold out in one week. They were just gone. And that’s not

even trying to sell any to New York or the West Coast. It was a real wake-up call to what the demand is if we have the sales channel.”

eat more of a savory and slightly bitter, slightly tart flavor profile – which is what vegetarian and vegan diets include.”

But production isn’t the only departure from traditional winemaking; differences show up on both the palate and the ingredients list. “Basically all of these [traditional] winemaking techniques are in place both to clean up bad wine and make wine more consistent across vintages,” Shulman said. “What the average consumer is looking for in wine is actually just consistency. It’s like buying paper towels, you know: That’s my brand. I buy Brawny, or whatever.”

That may explain why Vicia, with its vegetable-focused, inverted meat-and-potatoes menu, has such an excellent natural wine selection.

When you can’t depend on artificial stabilizing agents, sugar and other flavor additives to even things out, your wine gets real weird real fast. It’s harder to make, harder to make well and, in some cases, less approachable even when done right. All of which is a challenge enthusiasts like Reeds American Table advanced sommelier Andrey Ivanov can get into. “There’s a lot of bottle variation, and some bottles may show incredibly, incredibly well and some of them will not,” he said. That either makes every cork a thrilling gamble or just makes selling the stuff more difficult, depending on your perspective. Typically, natural wine isn’t as sweet, and quality bottles don’t always see time in oak. It can be cloudy since it isn’t always filtered. “It’s challenging those conventions that wine has to be clear, has to be fruity,” said Ivanov. “The wines that come out often times are a little bit more tart, a little bit more funky, a little more acidic or raspy.” It’s not what you’d expect in your favorite big-name cab, but if you like sour beer you’ll be into it. Ivanov also thinks it goes over well with vegetarians. “In my experience, people have been more into these wines when they

The wine and the food “all have to speak to each other,” said Vicia coowner Tara Gallina. “Our cuisine is very simple in the sense that we don’t want to manipulate a lot of the product that we have – it’s really just about using the best product we can get so it just tastes the way it’s supposed to taste. So the wines probably fall in that same line.” Like chef-owner Michael Gallina when he sources produce for the kitchen, assistant general manager Jen Epley always asks how the grapes are farmed and the wine is made when selecting bottles for Vicia’s list. To go all natural, “you have to be somebody who’s open to going on a little bit of an adventure,” Tara Gallina said. “You know, trying something outside your comfort zone, also being accepting that you’re taking a risk and you may hate it. But I think that’s a part of the fun.”

Claverach Farm, claverachfarm.com Cork & Rind, 555 First Capitol Drive, St. Charles, 636.896.4404, corkandrind.com Parker’s Table, 7118 Oakland Ave., St. Louis, 314.645.2050, parkerstable.com Reeds American Table, 7322 Manchester Road, Maplewood, 314.899.9821, reedsamericantable.com Vicia, 4260 Forest Park Ave., St. Louis, 314.553.9239, viciarestaurant.com The Vino Gallery, 4701 McPherson Ave., St. Louis, 314.932.5665, thevinogallery.com

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from left, white rooster farmhouse brewery coowners chris van horn, eric ogilvie and mike deutschmann

welcome to the farmhouse WHITE ROOSTER FARMHOUSE BREWERY MAKES SPARTA, ILLINOIS, A BEER DESTINATION b y STACY SCHULTZ \ \ p h o t o s b y JULIA CALLEO Guide to Drinking 2017

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Sitting at the bar at White Rooster Far mhouse B r e w e r y, I ’ m n e r v o u s . I definitely

like beer. I always grab craft over the big guys at the store, but I can’t identify hops or define the mash or debate fermentation methods. In a city where beerlovers can spend hours geeking out on the finite details of every brew, I simply can’t hang. I’m not a beer nerd.

Plus, I know that after sipping suds at White Rooster’s bar, I have to drive the hour and a half back home to St. Louis – on the winding road flanked by corn stalks that a bright red scooter led me down on my way out here. Back down Illinois Route 15, through East St. Louis and over the Eads Bridge. Just thinking about my trip home, I can’t help but wonder: How many people would really travel so far to this Illinois town of fewer than 5,000 for a pint when Missouri is practically busting at the seams with outstanding brews? As a husband and wife shuffle up to the bar from the side patio door, I get my answer. They came from Scratch Brewing, a craft brewery in Ava, Illinois, where they were told to make the 40-ish-minute trip to White Rooster where “everything is good.” This has become more common, coowner Eric Ogilvie tells me, as a decent chunk of White Rooster’s sales are beginning to come from the St. Louis crowd. The couple orders a sour and a Northeast-style IPA and sit down at one of the small wooden tables in front of the bar. Seconds after their first sips, the couple’s praising Ogilvie and his co-owners Chris Van Horn and Michael

Deutschmann, pummeling them with questions and asking for recommendations. At the other end of the bar, a guy in a Narrow Gauge Brewing T-shirt is paying his tab. You can see the delight in all three owners’ faces as he, too, compliments them on their Northeast IPA. This kind of beer, also called New England-style, is less bitter than traditional IPAs, Ogilvie explains to me, thanks to late and dry hop additions. The man is the assistant brewer at Narrow Gauge, a Florissant craft brewery known for its stellar Northeast-style IPAs. White Rooster wasn’t supposed to be inside this open-space roadside spot that’s housed everything from a Kroger to a video rental store over the years. Back when the trio began thinking seriously about opening a brewery (after faring surprisingly well at local homebrew competitions), they wanted it to be on Ogilvie’s parents’ property about 4 miles east where they held annual Classy Homebrew Throwdowns. “We would just basically crank out as many homebrews as we can and have a great big party,” Ogilvie tells me, smiling. “Ya know, the name – it’s sarcastic. Because there was nothing classy about what we were doing.” But when the neighbors didn’t see the value of adding a brewery to the area, the trio had to re-punt. They found this space in town and tapped their training as a sheet metal worker, a pipe fitter and an iron worker to handle about 80 percent of the rehab themselves. Finally, they had a location. They had a name, too: White Rooster, after Ogilvie’s pet

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rooster, Joe, who was “white and pretty tame. You could hold him and carry him around and stuff,” he says with a boyish giggle. “We’re pretty Hoosier.” And they had a plan for the beer: farmhouse style – barrelaged, sours, wild fermentation methods and yeast-driven flavors – “ya know, funky stuff,” Ogilvie says with another chuckle. Back at the bar, I tell Ogilvie to give me anything. He holds a glass to a tap and fills it with a clear, golden liquid aptly named Gold Rush, the Northeast-style IPA that everyone was raving about just minutes earlier. (Ogilvie and Deutschmann are huge Scorcese fans and are having a blast with mob-themed names for their brews.) It’s good – really good – and sans the smack-you-in-the-face bitterness I find in most IPAs. I can actually taste the fruitiness of the hops. This is an IPA I could drink and drink and drink. Next, he pours me the Strawberry Kairos, one of White Rooster’s Farmhousestyle sours that’s been fruited with strawberries from a nearby orchard. After selfdeprecatingly admitting I’ve never cared much for sours, I take my first sip – slight sourness balanced perfectly by juicy strawberry natural sweetness – and fall in love. These are funky beers for people who don’t usually like funky beers. And for people who do. That’s the thing about this place: A tucked-away spot inside a tiny Illinois town, named after a pet rooster and inspired by an ironically named farm party is turning out fantastically innovative beer that’s making brewers, beer-lovers and even novices ask for another. I’d say that’s worth traveling for.

top: from left, kairos and gold rush, a n o r t h e a s t - s t y l e I PA ; b o t t o m : t h e b a r a t wh i t e r o o s t e r f a r m h o u s e b re w e r y

WHITE ROOSTER FARMHOUSE BREWERY 1 1 3 W. J a c k s o n S t . , S p a r t a , Illinois, 618.449.2077, wh i t e r o o s t e r f a r m h o u s e b re w e r y. c o m

Sauce editors Heather Hughes and Catherine Klene and staff writer Matt Sorrell join St. Louis on the Air to discuss this year’s Guide to Drinking. Tune in to 90.7 FM KWMU to learn more about what’s trending in the St. Louis drinking scene.

Guide to Drinking 2017


clockwise from top left, a b a r t e n d e r p u l l s a p o u r, white rooster in sparta, the rotating draft list, an oak barrel for aging b e e r, t a p s a t w h i t e r o o s t e r, t h e t a s t i n g r o o m b a r, b o t t l e s a n d g r o w l e r s available to go at the b r e w e r y, c o - o w n e r e r i c ogilvie brews

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where everybody knows your name by matt sorrell \\ photos by izaiah johnson

The neighborhood bar. Some think there should be a pool table present; others, a jukebox in the corner, maybe karaoke or trivia nights on the regular. But these are merely amenities. The key to a neighborhood bar is the neighborhood engendered and cultivated inside four unique walls. It’s where patrons can sing along to the music or dance by themselves like no one’s watching, where they’re not judged for tipping back one too many or cheering too vociferously (or lamenting too loudly) for their favorite team. The neighborhood bar is personal. I’ve read various articles recently that sound the death knell for the neighborhood bar, each bemoaning that times are hard, margins are thin, and competition for customers and their dollars is stiff. All true. It’s hard to say goodbye when beloved institutions languish, but don’t count out these watering holes just yet. There are many St. Louis spots that still engender a sense of community and provide a much-needed respite from the day-to-day grind.

This isn’t an elegy – it’s an invitation. Pull up a stool and join the family. During the day at Harlem Tap Room, on a quiet stretch of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in North City, the liquor still flows generously from the selection of handles on the back bar. But the crowd is sparse, and the pace is decidedly laidback compared to the p.m. hours, when things can get a bit … animated, especially as the electronic darts games start to heat up. When the sun is out, people tend to pop in, sit a spell, have a nip, make some small talk with the bartender, then move along. While I sip on my bourbon, a couple of guys in workman’s coveralls eat takeout at the bar from Brother’s Diner around the corner, and a young woman in impossibly tight pants sways slowly to the classic soul dripping from the speakers, waiting her turn for the ladies’ room. It’s dark and cool inside, and I very much want to skip out of my afternoon commitments, have another round, and just let the day get away from me. Productivity be damned!

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patrons gather at the hideaway

cheeseburgers are a sure bet at the village bar

neighborhood bars we love DOC HAUS 6217 Morgan Ford Road, St. Louis, 314.352.4465, Facebook: Doc Haus

HARLEM TAP ROOM 4161 Dr. Martin Luther King Dr., St. Louis, Facebook: Harlem Tap Room Est. 1946

THE HIDEAWAY

Doc Haus is located in an old South City bungalow, and if it weren’t for the large Budweiser sign looming over the front yard, it’d be virtually

indistinguishable from its neighbors. This place is from another time: Cigarette smoke wafts from the patio, there are framed newspapers in the men’s room celebrating the Rams’ 1999 Super Bowl victory, and cash is the only recognized form of payment. The first time I hit up Doc Haus, it was a raucous Saturday night with folks three deep at the bar. Later, I stop in for a midday nip. The front windows are open and a warm breeze wafts through, making it feel like an urban beach shack. The only folks there besides me are a pair of

5900 Arsenal St., St. Louis, 314.645.8822, Facebook: The Hideaway

THE HIVE 609 N. New Ballas Road, Creve Coeur, 314.569.1769, The Hive

SPORTSMAN’S PARK 9901 Clayton Road, Ladue, 314.991.3381, sportsmanspark ladue.com

THE VILLAGE BAR 12247 Manchester Road, Des Peres, 314.821.4532, Facebook: The Village Bar

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the village bar

is a sports bar. I mean, the tabletops are in the shapes of baseballs and footballs, for crying out loud. But Sportsman’s Park transcends that worn-out moniker. The Cardinals are playing as I nurse my drink, but no one is glued to the game. Instead, an older gent at the end of the bar is helping the bartender cut out coupons from the weekend Post-Dispatch, and a couple of middle-aged matrons next to me gab about their neighbors over glasses of white wine spritzers, with nary a mention of the score. Ladue is often pigeonholed as a swank destination – a bit highfalutin’, if you will – but the vibe at Sportsman’s Park is more backyard barbecue than garden party. Drop in and sit a while.

jukebox, which is cranking out the soundtrack of my adolescence from REO Speedwagon to Foreigner and beyond. I’m minding my own business, sipping one of the aforementioned cheap brews, when I overhear one of my all-time favorite bar stories: A kid in a snap-back STL cap is telling a burly, bearded guy in a Blues jersey about a friend living in Pakistan who trips by smoking scorpion venom. Apparently said friend discovered a way to dry the substance out into powdered form. How he milks the scorpion isn’t revealed or, oddly, even speculated upon. The Hideaway changed owners a year or so ago, and a lot of diehards were concerned the place would change as well. No worries, though. The soul of the space, like the orange shag carpeting that adorns the front of the bar, remains intact.

Back in my youth, The Village Bar in Des Peres was my go-to for cold pitchers of Bud and some of the best cheeseburgers and handcut onion rings around. It’s changed a bit over the years – the bar recently expanded into the former wig shop next door, so there’s a lot more seating – but the well-worn shuffleboard table remains, the globe light sporting Budweiser Clydesdales pulling a beer wagon continues to hang above the bar, and the food is still pretty solid. While a few solo drinkers dot the bar each time I go back, the rest of the room is filled with a broad cross section of the local citizenry: a group of kids and coaches celebrating their soccer game, couples getting out of the house for some beers and waffle fries, bros high-fiving and cheering on whatever teams are playing on TV. A village, indeed.

What with the name of the bar, the games playing on the TVs and the amount of sports memorabilia scattered throughout, you’d think Ladue’s Sportsman’s Park

E d i to r ’ s n ot e According to its Facebook page, Harlem Tap Room was closed for renovations at press time.

the hideaway

jorts-clad duffers at the end of the bar talking golf swings, and the bartender, who has a mirror set up on one of the tables and is touching up her makeup. Just another day on the south side… I drop by The Hive in Creve Coeur on a Sunday afternoon. Surrounded by offices and strip malls, all deserted on a Sunday of course, I wonder if the place is even open. But inside, the bar is packed tight. The beefy guy on the stool beside me adjusts his camo-patterned baseball cap and orders a shot of tequila. Based on the conversation I overhear, it’s an effort to keep the dog that bit him the night before at bay – it’s almost 2 p.m., so that dog must’ve bit hard. The mood is convivial, and oddly domestic, a little bit like a tipsy PTA meeting. TVs abound, and there are a few fans watching basketball, but it’s more about the interaction here than the game. The topics of the various conversations range from the upcoming Billy Joel concert (“Tickets are how much?”) to the ungodly times kids soccer games start on weekend

mornings. I order a Wild Turkey, and the bartender feels comfortable enough to let one of the regulars crack the seal on the new bottle for her while she runs a pizza and a grilled cheese to the other side of the bar, an act of trust you’re not likely to see at the average corporate joint.

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A longtime fixture on Arsenal Street, The Hideaway is known for hosting live piano music (a definite mustsee) and karaoke, as well as offering some of the cheapest beer around, especially during Cards games. On my most recent Saturday afternoon visit though, the only music happening is courtesy of the

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brandy beguiles a new generation BY KRISTIN SCHULTZ

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hese days, people are more likely to get excited about the ’90s R&B Brandy than the oft-overlooked spirit. Perhaps it’s the confusing nomenclature: What’s the difference between Cognac, Armagnac and schnapps? Maybe it’s brandy’s stuffy, cigar-jacketed image – it just isn’t considered as sexy as whiskey (or as catchy as “The Boy Is Mine”). “People in France tend to think of it as an old man’s drink,” said Planter’s House coowner Ted Kilgore. But brandy – broadly defined as a spirit distilled from fermented fruit juice – is making a comeback among some distillers and barkeeps keen on pouring classic cocktails that take advantage of its unique qualities of fruit, terroir and aging. It’s really the original American booze – the first distilled in the U.S. Most are made with grapes by distilling wine and aging the distillate in wood barrels, but the first American version was probably an apple brandy made in the mid-1600s, well before rye whiskey and bourbon. Some of the oldest classic cocktails, like the sidecar, are built on brandy, and others, like the typically rye-based Sazerac, were originally made with brandy. From the time of the tricorn hat onward, however, the fanciest Americans were (and still are) drinking Cognac. To be called Cognac, brandy must be made in the namesake region of France and distilled twice in a pot still. And since we’re talking about France here, Cognac was one of the first quality-controlled brandies –

Guide to Drinking 2017

which partially accounts for its longstanding baller status. The most lauded brandies still come from Cognac. Similarly, Armagnac the spirit is produced in the more southern Armagnac region of France, though this one is made in a column still. Due to variations in grape blends and terroir, Armagnac has a younger, rowdier character than its sophisticated cousin from the north. There are so many kinds of Cognac and Armagnac that describing them is kind of like trying to give tasting notes for “red wine,” but in general, Cognac is smooth and round with subtle earthy and fruity notes and softly fades to a smooth, dry finish. Armagnac has a butterscotch nose and is spicier and punchier up front than Cognac. In true cowboy fashion, American distillers are working to give these OG French producers a run for their euro. In April, a group of makers and industry pros met for the first California Brandy Summit and left resolved to further the craft and raise the status of California brandy. We’ve all come a long way since our utilitarian pre-revolutionary days. “It’s an interesting time to watch things change,” said Kilgore, noting an increase in the production of apple brandies from American producers. Closer to home, award-winning brandy is being made just outside of Marthasville, Missouri. Edelbrand Pure Distilling specializes in fruit brandies (those made with something other than grapes). Owners Martin Weber, Lynn DeLean-Weber and Tess DeLean have only been distilling since 2014, but Edelbrand apple brandy infused with plum snagged a gold medal at this July’s Washington Cup in Kansas City, and will be put through to a second round of national competition. The distillery’s apricot and grape brandies each took silver medals. Edelbrand walked away with plenty of bling at the

Mid-American Wine Competition as well: a gold medal and Best Spirit designation for its plum brandy, silver medals each for its apricot and grape brandies and a bronze for its apple brandy infused with plum. “We’re still floating on a cloud,” said DeLean-Weber. “You can’t wipe the smile off his face.” That face belongs to her husband, Martin. He was born and raised in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, where an after-dinner glass of schnapps was tradition. Schnapps can refer to many infused spirits or liqueurs, but is commonly a standin for fruit brandy. In Switzerland, they’re not the syrupy, tooth-gratingly sweet swill marketed to unsuspecting college students. Rather, Swiss schnapps are dry and complex, focused on the essence of the fruit. “This is something that was part of his heritage,” DeLean-Weber said. “Martin wanted to try it. I told him, ‘If you can make it, I think I can sell it.’” It takes about 15 to 18 pounds of pears to make one 375-milliliter bottle of Edlebrand’s pear brandy. The distillers started with a 7-gallon still, then acquired a 12-gallon still and in 2015 got an 18-gallon still. This year they have produced just fewer than 1,100 bottles.

HOW OLD’S YOUR HENNESSY? Cognacs and Armagnacs have standard designations and (not very clever) abbreviations. While these may sound pretentious AF, knowing the lingo should make your trip to the liquor store easier.

VS (Very Special) The youngest brandy blended into VS Cognacs is at least 2 years old, while VS Armagnacs all have to be at least 1 year old. VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) The youngest eau de vie in both Cognac and Armagnac VSOP brandies has to be at least 4 years old. XO (Extra Old) Extra old means 6 years for Cognacs and Armagnacs.

“The big guys spill more in an hour and we make in a year,” said DeLean-Weber. What Edelbrand does make can be found at local restaurants like Annie Gunn’s, YaYa’s, Acero and Stone Soup Cottage. To take a rare bottle home, keep an eye out at The Wine and Cheese Place and Vom Fass. With both grape-based brandies and the clear, essential versions with pear, plums or apricots sneaking back into more cocktails and menus, you may soon ask yourself: Have you ever loved some bottle so much it makes you cry?

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BOTTLES TO BUY Ready to be wooed by a bottle of brandy? Check out these pro picks ranging from wallet-friendly to impress-the-boss.

Cognac Claude Chatelier VS With lots of fig, apricot and peach on the nose, this rich, full Cognac finishes with a dry, lingering spiciness. Its quality far exceeds the price tag. $20. Trader Joe’s, various locations, traderjoes.com

Camus VS A bar rail standard, the Camus VS is primarily floral with notes of honeysuckle, honey and caramel. $25. The Wine and Cheese Place, 7435 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, 314.727.8788, wineandcheeseplace.com

Pierre Ferrand 1840 Spicy and bold, this is a great Cognac for cocktails. $43. The Wine and Cheese Place

Camus Île de Ré Cliffside Aged in a cellar overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Cliffside is mellow with orange and dried grape notes. $80. The Wine and Cheese Place

PHOTO CARMEN TROESSER

Leopold Raffin Cognac XO The oldest of the bunch, this XO Cognac features delicate and smooth peach and almond notes. $130. The Wine and Cheese Place

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Guide to Drinking 2017


from left, the fine and dandy and sidewinder from frazer’s terry oliver

SIDEWINDER Courtesy of Frazer’s Terry Oliver 1 SERVING 1 oz. Big O Ginger Liqueur 1 oz. Camus VS 1 oz. Rothman & Winter apricot liqueur ¾ oz. lemon juice Lemon twist and mint, for garnish • Combine all ingredients in shaker and fill twothirds with ice. Shake vigorously 20 seconds and strain into a rocks glass with 1 large ice cube. Garnish with the lemon twist and mint.

FINE AND DANDY Courtesy of Frazer’s Terry Oliver 1 SERVING 1½ oz. Camus VS 1 oz. Plantation 5-year rum 1 oz. Velvet Falernum 1 barspoon absinthe 1 dash Angostura bitters 1 dash chocolate bitters 1 dash orange bitters Lemon twist, Thin Mint cookie and sea salt, for garnish • Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and fill two-thirds with ice. Stir 30 seconds and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with the lemon twist and a Thin Mint cookie with sea salt.

SAZERAC Courtesy of Planter’s House’s Ted Kilgore ¼ ounce absinthe 2 oz. Camus VS or Pierre Ferrand 1840 ½ ounce simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar) 6 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters Lemon twist • Pour the absinthe into a highball glass and swish around, coating the sides and bottom of the glass. Discard remaining liquid. • Combine the Cognac, simple syrup and bitters in a shaker and fill two-thirds with ice. Stir 30 seconds and strain into the absinthe-rinsed glass. Twist the lemon over the drink and discard the peel. Guide to Drinking 2017

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Gre at King Street Gl as gow Blend Scotch is expensive. This smoky, peaty, blended bottle from Compass Box is a tasty and economical intro to the heavier flavors of Islay. $35. Lukas Wine & Spirits, 15678 Manchester Road, Ellisville, 636.227.4543, lukasliquorstl.com

El Dorado 5-Ye ar Rum Made in wood stills in Guyana, this rum is way cheaper than it should be. Five years in used bourbon barrels produces a panoply of flavor notes from dried fruit to caramel. $20. Randall’s Wine & Spirits, various locations, shoprandalls.com

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Trader Joe’s The Art of The Still Or ganic Gin

Trader Joe’s Single M alt Irish Whiskey

S chnucks Private Stock Bourbon

Not as juniper-forward as a London dry, TJ’s martiniworthy New Western-style gin is clean, crisp and citrusy. $14. Trader Joe’s, various locations, traderjoes.com

Sweet and floral with just a touch of smoke and leather, this whiskey is aged in oak for eight years. $25. Trader Joe’s, various locations, traderjoes.com

A 100-proof high-rye bourbon sourced from a well-regarded distillery on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, this house brand unicorn strikes a delicious balance between boozy, spicy and smooth. $13. Schnucks, various locations, schnucks.com Guide to Drinking 2017

PHOTO BY JONATHAN GAYMAN

BUDGET BOOZE

Looking for quality spirits at swill prices? From third party-manufactured house brands to underpriced hidden gems, here are some first-rate options that won’t break the bank. – Matt Sorrell


Guide to Drinking 2017

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